What a year huh?
In many ways, this past year or so has been a period of great stillness and reflection globally. A type of forced retreat, we have come to accept a slower and quieter pace of life, a moment of respite from the rat race of our contemporary society.
Looking into the hazy summer days twinkling in our future, we can visualise London parks teeming with cider-sipping young people and music festivals jam packed with teenagers rubbing shoulders (and god knows what else)... the somewhat ethereal sounds of laughter drifting easily on the wind.
Sounds good right? We've wanted this for so long. Trapped in our living room cages, taking ourselves for our moody 10k steps once a day, we've had the time to lust and fantasise about being with people again. To be close to others. To hug and kiss our loved ones without fear. To shuffle up next to strangers in the pub and share moments of connection.
Except there may be a different type of danger lurking in the shadows of our eager selves...
A type of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion that sweeps through us suddenly and steals our light. The result of burning our candles at both ends - of doing too much too quickly and allowing our inner fire to be extinguished.
The sad reality is that these symptoms sound all so familiar to most of us living here in the Western world. Burnout is an everyday occurrence and we accept our fate with defeat. Turning into the deep, dark depths of exhaustion without any support or guidance on how to get out. We are spent.
A building burnout is easy to spot when you know what to look for - detachment, apathy, overwhelm, tearfulness, lack of motivation and a deep, depressive tiredness are all things to look out for, amongst others. I've burnt out a number of times in my life and now have a deep reverence for quietude and rest. However the warning signs of burnout are so commonly accepted within our pre-pandemic, fast-and-furious world that it can be difficult to prise ourselves away from the madness for a moment of stillness. Wouldn't it be so great if we could just press pause on our crazy world for a few moments to catch our breath, straighten out our clothes and have the time to reflect on where we can rest a little more?
Oh wait... I guess that just happened?
One of the positives I've taken from the onslaught of lockdowns is the reflection and retreat I was forced to take. I've meditated regularly for a few years but often lose my practice discipline when I'm working long hours. This past year or so has forced me to sit in quiet and stillness, take long and mindful walks in the woods, or immerse myself in my yoga practice and philosophy without any other possible distractions. It's been confronting at times to realise how much I was running on empty. Waking up at 10am every morning for the first few weeks, or falling asleep during my meditation practice, was a pretty clear sign my body and mind were utterly depleted. But time went on, as it always does, and I eventually fell into a more sustainable rhythm of balancing working from home and finding time to rest. I felt so utterly grateful for this slower pace of life, and I never would have chosen to slow down myself.
So how can we reintegrate with the world, without burning out?
The way to start is to be totally aware and mindful of guarding your energy. The opportunity to over-socialise again might seem tempting but sharing your energy around large groups of people, over a long period of time, can be draining and depleting. Choose your interactions wisely and be mindful of prioritising yourself over anybody else, you come first!
Reassess your working situation and make sure everything is still working for you in supporting a slower-paced lifestyle. I'm not saying quit your job and head for the hills (unless that calls you!) but perhaps opening up conversations with managers or colleagues, or yourself if you're self-employed, about your wants and needs.
Be organised and build the time into your day for stillness and rest. Move things around to suit your alone time/luxury bath/meditation/yoga practice and be firm in that time as a priority.
The diary is bound to get fuller as summer rolls around - however knowing where to stop planning and draw the line as enough is important in preventing burnout. Plus it leaves more space for spontaneity and fun times to arise naturally without scheduling. Win win!
Replenishment is important - be aware of how much sleep you're getting and try to keep your time in bed at 7-8 hours a night minimum. Sleep is crucial to a balanced mind, body and spirit and a good kip will leave you feeling much more resilient as the world opens back up. Zzzzzzzz.....
Most importantly, look after yourself first and strive for balance in the mind, body and spirit.
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